— Edmund Burke, “Thoughts on the Cause of Present Discontents” (1770)
Over the past six months or so I’ve had this very sad, sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. I’ve watched as right-wing conservatives have ramped up their campaigns against the lives and dignities of LGBT people, the poor, people of color and immigrants. I’ve also watched as progressive leaders and voices have been unable to stop the onslaught despite some of their best intentions.
In short, it feels like the progressive vision for America is dying. I don’t know how true it is, I just know how I feel.
This possible slow-down in progress is, perhaps, most readily apparent to me on the issues which most affect me personally: It’s quite possible several pro-LGBT measures won’t be taken up by Congress before the all-important mid-term elections this fall. The Senate has yet to vote on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” neither the House nor Senate have taken up the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, and a host of other less known though no less notable measures like the Uniting American Families Act don’t stand a chance.
There are other issues and people for which I’m also concerned — people who find themselves being victimized by the same evil and twisted agenda attacking the LGBT community.
Republican leaders have wasted no time trying to protect BP, as the mammoth multi-national, multi-billion dollar corporation’s mistakes in the Gulf continue to destroy the environment and Gulf residents’ livelihoods. Those same Republican leaders adamantly oppose financial reform, an extension of unemployment benefits and other measures meant to protect often helpless low-income people not from a tyranny of government, but rather a tyranny of corporate dictatorship in which no one but the wealthiest of Americans have a voice.
Arizona’s “Where are your papers” law and other immigration concerns have also got me down. Conservatives across the country are mounting outlandish battles against immigrants. They say they’re targeting all illegals, but let’s be honest here: we know who they’re really after. Nativism is nothing new, but are we moving into a bolder, more hostile and scarier reawakening of a “know-nothing” movement targeting the “least of these” among us?
In Utah, a list of some 1,300 people was distributed to a host of organizations, including media outlets and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. The list was comprised overwhelmingly of folks of Hispanic origin and contained names, addresses, telephone numbers, Social Security numbers and more: 200 children were listed along with the due dates of six pregnant women.
The “group” claiming responsibility, “Concerned Citizens of the United States,” say they collected the names and information through diligent research and investigation of their neighbors, customers, employees and others — going so far as to say they used Latino/a “spies” to gather even the tiniest bits of details (like those pregnant women’s due dates).
Recent reports indicate the list came from some government agency’s database. No matter — where ever the list came from, it’s intended effects are clear: intimidation, fear, control and hate.
See, all of this is happening here as other governments the world over continue on their course toward greater liberty and equality for all. It is a path the U.S. once traveled — one oftentimes lit for others by Lady Liberty’s beacon. I’m afraid America’s role as bastion of hope and defender of equality is coming to an end, as many of my fellow country men and women take dangerous leaps off the deep end.
I love my country, but not as it is today — I love it for what it can be, should be and, I hope, will be. I love it for the ideals embodied in our founding and governing documents. What I do not love, and fear the most, is the rhetoric and actions of those who, it seems, would like nothing more than to kill the America for which countless millions have fought and died.
But, there is good news: Our destiny isn’t predetermined. Our future can be shaped and molded. Whether equality or tyranny wins is up to us and entirely dependent upon our willingness to stand up and speak out, not only for ourselves and our own community but for all the people under attack by hate, racism and classism.
So, I issue a simple call to action: Take a stand — a public stand. Speak to your friends, family and complete strangers for all I care. Get registered to vote and remember to participate on election day. Write your members of Congress, local and state elected officials. Donate your time or money to a worthy progressive cause. Do this, and more. You see: America isn’t lost yet, and I know we can save it. : :